Local News

Slate Valley district proposes reduced school budget for revote

Staff report

After the Slate Valley Unified Union District budget failed 861-853 on Town Meeting Day, a budget revote is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13.

Voters will be asked to approve a $26,236,547 budget — $33,500 less than the proposed budget narrowly defeated on Town Meeting Day, March 1.

Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell said she was initially disappointed the budget was defeated.

“We had already presented a pretty lean budget to the taxpayers,” she said.

The $33,500 reduction comes from operating costs associated with Castleton Village School. The operating costs are no longer needed since a Town Meeting Day decision by both Castleton and Hubbardton voters to close and purchase the building from Slate Valley for a total of $1. The change in ownership will start July 1.

Olsen-Farrell said the decision to close Castleton Village School saved the district around $1.2 million this year, but that’s not reflected in the budget because most was eaten up by inflation. Next school year, students from Castleton village will move to Fair Haven Union Middle and High School. Renovations are currently underway at Fair Haven Union High School to facilitate the Middle School consolidation and are expected to be done this summer.

While the projected spending per equalized pupil is 2.78% higher than the current year, the revised budget represents a tax rate decrease in all six towns.

The estimated education tax rate in Orwell is expected to decrease by 15 cents; West Haven will see a 13 cent decrease. In Benson, the rate will go down by an estimated 12 cents; Castleton will see an 8 cent drop. Fair Haven’s estimated decrease will be 4.5 cents and Hubbardton’s will be 3 cents.

The decision to close Castleton Village School also comes after the school abruptly closed in January after a flooding issue led to the discovery of asbestos in the building. All teachers and students were moved out of the building and squeezed into Castleton Elementary School.

Olsen-Farrell said about $52,000 worth of remediation work was done to fix damage to half the building. All of the costs were covered by insurance.

The school reopened for the first time on Monday, March 21 — about a week ahead of schedule.

“We are pretty pleased we did it so quickly and are able to get the students back in there,” Olsen-Farrell said.

Voters are invited to attend an informational meeting on Tuesday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the band room of Fair Haven Union High School.

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